Sabbatical vs. Vacation: What’s the Difference?

Dear Fellow Pilgrims,

This year we are embarking on a new adventure both for our church and our co-pastors, the adventure of a pastoral sabbatical! Hopefully everyone is already aware that Chip’s sabbatical will be a four-month pilgrimage. Many of us see this as an adventure, a new opportunity for all of us to step off of our beaten, familiar path, to look with fresh eyes and listen with fresh ears. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our spiritual discernment, growth, learning and renewal.

The original plan was for the sabbatical to begin this coming July and to continue, uninterrupted, into October. That plan predated the realities of this Covid pandemic and all of its attendant travel restrictions, cancellations and uncertainties. With those challenges in mind, last month the Personnel Commission, in consultation with Chip and Tami, recommended to Session that the Sabbatical plan needed to be revised. Chip will now be taking the first month of his Sabbatical this July. Then, for the month of August, he and Tami will be taking their vacation and doing some continuing education. Then, we will push the pause button until the next summer when Chip will be able to resume the remaining three months of his sabbatical in July, August and September of 2022.

So, just for clarification, here are some thoughts about the difference between a sabbatical and a vacation.

A vacation is typically a week or a few weeks of leisure and recreation, and a respite from our work. Despite contingency planning, a vacationing pastor may be contacted on occasion for an unforeseen crisis.

A pastoral sabbatical is an extended period of leave, usually lasting several months. According to the Clergy Renewal Program of the Lilly Foundation, “Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.” The purpose of the sabbatical is to allow the pastor to temporarily step away from their church long enough to be able to engage deeply in a process of discernment and renewal. It is a time for discovering, imagining, visioning, and restoring his sense of call to ministry and our ministry at FPCY. For this sabbatical to achieve its goals, Chip will need to be unavailable for a sufficiently long time to allow for deeply meaningful spiritual discernment and growth so that he may return with renewed vision and vigor for ministry, and ministry together.

What will this mean for our congregation? It means that Chip will not be responding to emails or texts or other communications during his sabbatical leave. It means that we, the congregation, will work together to make sure that our needs are known and that they are met. A Sabbatical Planning Team has been actively working and planning for pulpit coverage, for management of meetings, for fellowship opportunities, and for pastoral care. Together, all of us have a wonderful opportunity for learning and growing together into God’s love and abundance.

Respectfully Submitted on behalf of the Personnel Committee,

Alice Chin and Beth Gruber Co-chairs, Personnel Committee